A Moche Stirrup Bottle with a Seated Man, ca. 200 - 400 CE
This splendid red-brown ceramic stirrup bottle is finely rendered by its artisan creator in the form of a man sitting with knees to chest and arms wrapped around his knees, his head turned slightly to the right, with long straight hair, wide eyes, bushy eyebrows, beaked nose, and large ears, wearing a striped poncho with his feet peeking out beneath, a stirrup spout attached at the back
Well before the rise of the Inca state in the fifteenth century, potters on Peru’s north coast produced great numbers of ceramic bottles in the shapes of humans, animals, plants, and imaginative combinations of these in the ceramic workshops associated with ritual centers between the Nepeña River in the south and the Piura Valley in the north. Many of these are notable for their descriptive accuracy, though we would not designate them as portraits. However, for a few centuries in the mid-first millennium CE, artists of the Moche cultures excelled at the creation of “portrait vessels,” so-called for their striking apparent resemblance to specific individuals.
These vessels could take the form of a head or of a full body, as seen here, and were shaped into bowls, jars, or, most commonly, bottles. Many of these have a spout in the shape of a stirrup, a favored form for ritual vessels on the north coast of Peru for about 2,500 years, from at least the beginning of the first millennium BCE through the early colonial period. It is unclear what these vessels once contained, if anything, although it is commonly assumed that they were used to hold chicha, a type of maize beer.
Ref: Joanne Pillsbury. “Moche Portrait Vessels.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mphv/hd_mphv.htm (September 2021)
Dimensions: Height: 7 inches (17.7 cm) Width: 6 1/4 inches (15.87 cm)
Condition: The left foot is reattached, and a chip is on top of the left ear. With areas of surface deposits, overall intact and in good condition.
Provenance: Private collection of Alan C. Lapiner (1933-1975), New York, to Veracruzana Inc, NYC in the 1960s. Thereafter Edward H. Merrin Gallery, 1970s.
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